Since the start of the season, Fresno State offensive lineman Logan Hughes has taken practice reps at four positions and played at three. Now, the Bulldogs’ staff isn’t ruling anything out.
Hughes made his first career start last week against San Diego State at left guard, and when the Bulldogs went to their heavy package against the Aztecs – and the previous week at Nevada – he slid outside and lined up as a tight end where he could, conceivably, run routes and catch a pass.
“Hey, you never know,” said offensive-line coach Mark Weber, wearing his best poker face.
“Who knows? We might have one up our sleeves,” offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau said.
Logan has done a really nice job the last few weeks having to learn guard and tackle and tight end and to give us more flexibility to be more physical in there whether we’re running the ball or in protection. It gives you something to be concerned with because he’s a big, physical body in there.
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter, on sophomore offensive lineman Logan Hughes
That more likely is fodder for other teams to fret about over the next five weeks when game-planning for Fresno State, but Hughes is trending upward as a Bulldogs rookie.
“He has a great want-to,” coach Tim DeRuyter said. “He got here in the summer and it’s difficult when you’re trying to transition to college, learn an offense and now we’re asking him to play a couple of different positions, but because of that great want-to and because he’s a smart football player, he’s able to understand concepts and not just play tackle but play guard when we need him to and play tight end when we need him to.
“That’s a rare ability, especially for someone who has only been here on campus for a few months.”
Displaying that versatility might be the easiest part of the transition to the NCAA level for Hughes, who was a 190-pound defensive end and offensive tackle at Green Valley High in Henderson, Nev. He went from there to Victor Valley College only because it was the closest community college to home that fielded a football program.
“I was recruited as a defensive end to go to Victor Valley,” he said, “and then within two weeks of being there they go, ‘Hey, uh, we only have four offensive linemen. Would you mind playing tackle?’ ”
Hughes made the move but still was undersized, playing his freshman season between 220 and 230 pounds.
The Bulldogs have another tough test rushing the football on Saturday at Utah State. The Aggies are only sixth in the Mountain West in rushing defense, allowing 157.8 yards per game, but they are third in yards per play at 3.7.
From high school to Fresno State, he has added about 80 pounds and is playing now at about 270.
Packing on the weight isn’t easy at the JC level.
“Junior college, you’re on your own except when you’re at practice,” said Hughes, a true sophomore. “I have to thank my mom for teaching me how to cook at a young age and for them supporting my eating habits while I was out there. I had only put on 20 or 30 pounds and then I came home for a long break and that’s when mom was cooking for me and I was eating like six or seven times a day.
“But I was told before I came back that if I was serious and wanted to get out in a year I was going to have to be 270.”
Weber found Hughes on his way there during the spring evaluation period, taking in a practice at Victor Valley while making his rounds in his assigned recruiting area.
“He was a 4 for 3 – he was a qualifier out of high school,” Weber said. “He was very raw, but had gained some weight. We liked his movement. He has got really good feet and good hips, and he can run. So I sent the film to (Kiesau) and he checked him out.
“The head coach (Dave Hoover), he was OK, gave us his blessing to take him, because he could have played another year at the JC and he still has a redshirt year.”
Coach Web, he took a risk on me because I was still only like 260 at the time. All the other coaches wanted me to wait and gain more weight.
Hughes, on choosing Fresno State as his next stop after a year at Victor Valley College
Hughes still had a ways to go.
“Coach Web, he took a risk on me because I was still only like 260 at the time. All the other coaches wanted me to wait and gain more weight,” Hughes said.
He enrolled in summer school at Fresno State and started working out with the team. When fall camp opened, he made a quick impression with his competitiveness, finishing plays.
“I didn’t really know too much of what I was doing and I figured the best way for me to make up for that was to go hard,” Hughes said. “It’s something I’ve always tried to do, and the main point is just staying more consistent. It took me a little bit to adjust to the playbook and learning everything because, before, I always went to schools that had five to eight plays for the O-line. We didn’t do much. It was learning and really trusting coach Web and trying to add in to that with physicality.”
In fall camp with the Bulldogs, Hughes and the offensive linemen were digesting 25 to 30 plays. Now well into the season, with Fresno State (1-6, 0-3 Mountain West) headed to Logan for a Saturday game against Utah State (2-4, 0-3), that is pared down considerably in the weekly game-planning.
But Hughes, these days, still has to have the calls and assignments down at multiple positions. He is the starting left guard, the first backup at left and right tackle, and a tight end in the heavy package.
“He’s talented, but it was a matter of learning the speed of the game and how to practice at his level,” Weber said. “I mean, he wasn’t even here last spring.
“It takes awhile to acclimate to this and to learn it, but he has done a good job. He’s figuring things out and he has a mean streak to him, and that helps.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE AT UTAH STATE
- Saturday: 7:30 p.m. at Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium (22,059) in Logan, Utah
- Records: Bulldogs 1-6, 0-3 Mountain West; Aggies 2-4, 0-3
- TV/radio: CBS Sports Network/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)